A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. In verses 10-17 of our text, we find an explanation from Jesus as to why He spoke in parables. There are two simple reasons that Jesus gives for why He spoke in parables: 1. So that the people would be able to understand the mysteries of the kingdom. 2. In order to fulfill scripture. Our focus here is on the parable of the sower. This is a parable that has brought much discussion and debate over the years. Many schools of theology use this parable to prove their varying views. However, what is the real meaning of this parable? What is Jesus really trying to show us?
The Sower. In Bible times, the sower was one who would have a bag over his shoulder and walk up and down the furrows and scatter seed. It was not his job to prepare the soil or to nurture it or to tend it, but just to get it out. In this parable, Jesus is the sower. He is the one who is broadcasting the good news of kingdom of God. When we accept Jesus as our Savior we in turn also become sowers. We have a responsibility to scatter the seed of the Gospel around the world. There is nothing else that we must do; we must simply be faithful to proclaim the Gospel.
The Seed. In all three gospels, the seed is referred to as the Word of God. There are several reasons as to why the Word of God is illustrated by seed. First of all, like natural seed, God’s Word has life itself. Look at Hebrews 4:12. Here we see that the word of God is ‘living.’ No other book can bring life other than the Bible. It is God’s Word that gives life to a soul that is dead in sin. Secondly, like natural seed, the Word of God produces fruit, and in that fruit is the seed for more fruit. When God’s Word is planted in a believing heart, that life is transformed and through it more lives are transformed. Third, like natural seed, the Word of God must be planted, cultivated, and watered in order for there to be a harvest. As we do our part to plant the seed of God’s Word, Jesus Christ cultivates it, bringing life transformation as the Holy Spirit waters the seed through sanctification in order to bring to God a harvest. Finally, like natural seed, the Word of God has power. Look at Hebrews 4:12 again. The Word of God has the power to break through the hardest of hearts and bring forth life. Have you allowed the seed of God’s Word to transform you?
The Soils. Looking at the soils is where we want to spend the most of our time in this study. In verses 18-23 Jesus explains this parable to His disciples. Notice, first of all, the seed on the wayside. The seed, as we have seen, is the seed of the Gospel, the Word of God. The issue here is not in the message but in the soil in which that message lands. The Gospel never changes. The power of the Gospel never goes away. However, the real issue here is the heart. Jesus said that those who hear the Word but does not understand it, the wicked one will come by and snatch them away. He goes on to say that these are the ones who received the seed on the wayside. Now, how can one receive the Word and be snatched away by Satan? Is this verse saying that someone can lose their salvation? The answer is found in the definition of the word ‘received.’ We generally preach that in order to be saved, you must ‘receive’ the Gospel. This is absolutely true. So, how can one receive the Gospel and not be saved? It needs to be understood when you study scripture that sometimes one word in our language can have multiple meanings. Look at John 1:12. In this verse, we are told that if you ‘receive’ then you are a son of God. The world ‘receive’ in this verse comes from the Greek word: ‘lam-ban-o’. It means to call on, to catch, to have, to hold, or to attain. In other words, in this instance, the word ‘receive’ means that one has called upon Jesus and they have held on to or have attained eternal life. In other words, in this verse, to ‘receive’ is to be saved. However, in our text in Matthew 13, the word ‘receive’ is a completely different Greek word as is seen in John 1:12. The word ‘receive’ in Matthew 13:19 is the word ‘spi-ro’. It means to draw from or to be extended to. What Jesus is saying here is that the seed has gone forth; it has been extended to these people. In verse 4 of our text we see the seed on the wayside being devoured by birds. Those to whom the seed has been extended to on the wayside are those who have a calloused heart. They hear the message of the Gospel but they choose to ignore it. The seed was received in their ear, but, because of their hard heart, the seed is never germinated. The fault here is not with the sower or with the seed, but with the heart of the hearer. The point here is that there are many who hear the Gospel but they deliberately choose to turn away from it. These people are eventually snatched away by Satan and are lost forever. Next we see the seed on the stony ground. In verse 20-21, we find that those to whom the Gospel is extended to on the stony ground are those who have an emotional experience rather than true salvation. The stony ground is a picture of large parts of Palestine where limestone was covered by thin layers of dirt. When seeds would fall in this dirt, the roots would spring up but then have no place to go. The plants would generate some beautiful leaves but when the sun came out and the roots could not go deeper for moisture, they would dry up and die. Sadly, this happens to a lot of so-called ‘Christians.’ People will make a profession of faith and even for a season appear to be genuine but then when the troubles of the world comes along, when the test of faith comes, they fade away. These are those who have an emotional experience rather than a changed life. Thirdly, we see the seed on thorny ground. Jesus explains in verse 22 that these are those to whom the Gospel has been extended but the cares of this world chokes them and they bear no fruit. These are those who may have said all the right things and appear as if they are saved, but yet, they are focused on things of this earth instead of the things of God and they have no fruit. Dr. David Jeremiah said, “So many people spend their lives buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t even like.” There are many today who fall in this category. They are too full of themselves and too full of the world that their lives are never changed. Finally, we have the seeds sown in good ground. In verse 23, Jesus says that the seeds that fell on good ground are those whose lives bear fruit. Some produces more fruit than others, but, they all bear fruit. This is the converted heart. This is the one who is truly born again. The key is found in the fruit they bear. You cannot be truly saved unless your life shows the evidence of salvation which is bearing fruit. The fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of godly living, the fruit of their lips, the fruit of giving, the fruit of their lives in some way demonstrates that there is genuine spiritual life. The proof of salvation is not found in listening to or emotionally responding to the Word. The proof of salvation is in the fruit.
The scary and sad thing about all this is that two of the four made some type of response to the Word of God. They think they are Christians, but, they are not. They have not produced fruit. Whatever life they thought they had has been snuffed out. There are many people in our churches today who have made some decision in their past, they had some type of experience, and they think they are on their way to heaven, yet, the reality is that they are on their way to hell, because there is no fruit. 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells to examine ourselves. Is there enough evidence or fruit of new life in you to demonstrate that the seed of God’s Word has really taken root in your heart?